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First Coast

North Florida Land Trust Acquires More Than 400 Acres In Keystone Heights

Little Rain Lake Preserve in Keystone Heights is being set aside for restoration and preservation.

The North Florida Land Trust (NFLT ) has acquired the 415 acres of property, which is near Little Rain Lake Park and Camp Blanding.

“Preserving this land is important not only to act as a buffer for Camp Blanding but also to restore and preserve one of Florida’s most endangered ecosystems,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “Longleaf pine forests were once a widespread ecosystem throughout the state but has experienced a 98 percent decline,” he added.

Gopher tortoise, indigo snake, Sherman’s fox squirrel and the Florida Black Bear are among the species on the preserve, according to an email from NFLT to WJCT News.

The land is also part of the wildlife corridor that stretches from the Ocala National Forest to the Osceola National Forest and eventually to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. 

NFLT says it has organized a new partnership to combine the efforts of state and federal agencies with nonprofits’ efforts to preserve and restore the wildlife corridor.

The land was acquired through funding from with the Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program

Preserving the land around Camp Blanding will allow Florida National Guard soldiers to train to the fence line without fear of affecting the quality of life for neighbors, according to NFLT.

“The National Guard is always happy to find partnerships that help meet multiple benefits for the public,” said Paul Catlett, installation and environmental program manager for Camp Blanding in the same emailed statement. 

"If we can reduce conflicts between military training and people's homes while also preserving important natural landscapes then that's a win-win," Catlett added.

You can learn more about the North Florida Land Trust here.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.